The Wonderful World of Herbs
The very first herb that I became aware of was Sassafras (Sassafras officinale) . I was about four years old and even now at the age of fifty three, I still savor the taste and smells of a hot mug of sassafras, which by the way is a mild diuretic. I was always amused by how the root would grow to just one side.
From then until now I can honestly say that I have rarely used a prescription/commercial medicine, preferring to use natural herbs instead, which is in keeping with my pagan upbringing.
And before the billionaires that make up the AMA get their tails in a knot, I am not advocating the use of natural herbs over prescription medicines. I do advocate doing your research to see if perhaps there is a more natural approach to ones individual well being. However this is a personal decision each has to make for him or herself.
At any rate, as the years passed, my interest and study of herbs grew and eventually I became certified as a Master Herbalist, which just means that I like the study of herbs, a lot. As such I am often asked a zillion questions about this ailment or that and what is the best herb to treat it with.
There is a story from Celtic paganism about how DianChect the master physician for the Tuatha De Danann, slew his son, Miach during a fit of jealousy. And from his grave sprang 365 different herbs which Miach’s sister, Airmed, harvested in order to give them to the human race. When their father saw what she was doing, he scattered the herbs all about so that humans did not obtain such knowledge so easily.
And that’s ok, for one thing I am not of the mind to question what decisions the Gods decide to make in relation to humans. And I am of the mind that one should always do their research before engaging in the use of herbs.
Also as a pagan I firmly believe in the old adage that rather then learning a little about a lot of herbs, one should learn a lot about just a few herbs.
Herbs are a natural form of medicine, so as with anything, do your research. For those who seek to incorporate herbs into their regimen but whom also take prescription drugs, you should be very aware of any possible contraindications between the herbs and the man-made medicines that you are taking.
You can complement your research into herbs by reading classics such as Culpepper’s Herbal, Shennong Emperor’s Classic of Materia Medica (Shennong Bencao Jing) , Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu) and the Treatise on the Nature of Medicinal Herbs (Yao Xing Lun) .
The Doctrine of Signatures is also interesting even if you don’t necessarily agree with it.
Of course every herbalist worth their roots have a few favorite herbs that they relate to. A few of mine are Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha) , an herb that is dedicated to Hymen, the God of marriage. Hawthorn is effective for curing insomnia and is used to prevent miscarriage and for treating nervousness. Hawthorn has been used for centuries in treating heart disease, as regular use strengthens the heart muscles, and to prevent arteriosclerosis, angina, and poor heart action. Hawthorn normalizes blood pressure by regulating heart action; extended use will usually lower blood pressure.
But again and I can’t stress this enough, Do Your Research!
I also employ Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) as a remedy for liver problems. It is used for varicose veins, menstrual difficulty, and congestion in the liver, spleen and kidneys. And the poisons most dangerous to the liver, those contained in the Deathcap mushroom, can be effectively detoxified with Milk Thistle extract. Shitake mushrooms are known for their anti-tumor properties and have been used as a dietary supplement for thousands of years in the Orient.
Moving on, I cannot say enough about White Willow bark (Salix alba) . The White willow contains salicin, the active constituent from which commercial aspirin was first synthesized. White willow bark is used for rheumatic complaints, arthritis, headaches as well as diarrhea, dysentery and a number of other complaints. I suggest the White Willow because though a number of other Willows also contain salicin, the tannin levels may be too high for other types of Willow to be of use.
St. Johns Wort (Hypericum perforatum) has a long and interesting history. The first century Greek physicians Galen and Dioscorides recommended it as a diuretic, wound healing herb, and as a treatment for menstrual disorders. In the sixteenth century Paracelsus, who ushered in the era of mineral medicines, used St. John’s Wort externally for treating wounds and for allaying the pain of contusions. St. John’s Wort, flowers at the time of the summer solstice, and in medieval Europe it was considered to have powerful magical properties that enabled it to repel evil.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is considered to be one of nature’s most effective herbal tranquilizers. It is a powerful root for the nerves, and as such, valerian should not be taken for longer than a few weeks, as it can become addictive. It helps cure depression when taken once or twice. It is also a good sedative for such conditions as neuralgia, hypochondria, insomnia, and nervous tension. It also appears to have real benefits in cases of sciatica, multiple sclerosis, shingles, and peripheral neuropathy, including numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and pain in the extremities. A very good herb when used properly.
And last but certainly not least is Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) . Red Clover is used as a nerve tonic and as a sedative for exhaustion. It is used to strengthen those children with weak systems, and is used with children for coughs, bronchitis, wheezing, as it is mild to their systems. Red Clover contains some of the best mucus clearing properties found in nature.
For over 100 years Red Clover has been used to treat and prevent cancer. It is often used in combination with many other drugs in the treatment of cancer and is known to be one of the best herbs for treating all varieties of cancer anywhere in the body.
If you make a personal decision to use herbs in your daily life and you decide to harvest such herbs yourself, please show some respect for Mother Nature. Please don’t harvest endangered or declining species. And when you do harvest, only take a little and leave a lot. This will contribute to a continuing harvest, as the herbs will have a chance to populate.
Some of the herbs listed in this article may not grow in your area, but there may be equivalent herbs that grow within your local area. And for the last time, please do your research. And when harvesting wild herbs be wary of nearby pollutants such as heavily traveled roads, polluted streams and such. Also think of the needs of the wildlife and insects in your area. Far too often as humans, we only think of our own needs. But as pagans we have a greater responsibility then just ourselves…